Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Door Locks

Years ago, during one of our trips to Orlando, we had troubles with the door locks on our last night in the Condo.  We decided to make the best of our last night and catch the fireworks display at the WDW Magic Kingdom.  All done, we headed back to the hotel.

We had already packed up most things since we had an early morning flight home.  We arrive at our door after midnight.  Guess what, none of the four keys would work on the door.  We sent Matthew to the front desk to get the keys recoded.  What are the odds that none of our keys would work?  Matthew arrives back with the new keys, and no luck! WTH????

We called the front desk, and they said a maintenance man would be right over.  Turns out the magnetic lock have an internal battery that had run dry.  No key was going to open that door.  The maintenance man called another maintenance man who arrived with a "Sheppard's hook".  He slid that sucker under the door, grabbed the handicap door handle, and opened the door.  Yes!  we are in!  Thirty minutes later, the door lock was operational with a new set of batteries installed.  By now it was past 2:00 a.m.  Four hours we were headed to the airport.  Don't remember much about that trip, but I will never forget about that damned door lock experience.

Fast forward to August 2015.  We just checked into our condo in Panama City Beach.  26 floors of Condo heaven, right on the beach!  Keys in hand, we head to the room.  Twelfth floor, bet the view is gonna be great.  Well crap.  Keys don't work on the lock!  Flashback to Orlando trip!  Three keys and all we get is a red flashing light.  Well, at least the lock battery works!  A maintenance guy just happens to walk by, and he tries his super secret magic button.  It doesn't work!  I then remember that I gave the fourth key to our friends that will be staying with us.  Where in the heck are they??

Something inside tells me to knock on the door.  To my delight, their daughter open the door!  She hard turned the deadbolt on the door when they came in 10 minutes earlier.  Apparently the deadbolt lock turns off the magnetic code within the door.

What is it about me and door locks on vacation!  Now I have two sets of memories about vacations and magnetic locks to clutter my brain!  Where there I two, number three can't be far behind!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 1 Roadie Trip To PCB

Great idea, pass up June and July and wait til August for the great migration south, to the land of surf and sand, can't wait for a margarita in my hand!  This trip ' s destination would be the Wyndham at Panama City Beach.  Lots of families are done, now getting ready for back to school activities.  Trip will be a breeze.  What the hell was I thinking???

The signs of what was to come began showing themselves only a few miles outa town.  We usually take hwy 18 from Brandon, to Puckett, then hwy 13 to Mendenhall to get onto Hwy 49, the pathway south.  We miss all the stop and go through Richland and Florence.  The road is two lane, but fairly straight, and hardly any traffic.

As we are entering hwy 18, we are now behind one truck pulling a tiny house and another pulling a septic tank, guessing they are headed to the same destination.   No biggie, I'll  just pass them up the road a bit.  Dang is this Saturday isn't  the biggest traffic day of the summer!  Lots of on coming cars, with no chance to pass.  Finally, an open strip!

I look, and there is on coming in the far distance.  No biggie, plenty of time.  Before I can merge left, I see this car from about 5 lengths back jump out to pass!  That's  5 behind me, and there are two in front of me!  The dude had a motor, and is gone in a flash.   Then, he takes the time to honk loudly at the truck  pulling the tiny house as he takes the lead, with only about 4 car lengths to spare.  As he left us behind, his cruising speed had to have been 70+ on a roadway meant for 55.  I began praying for MHP to be just around the corner, ready with a welcome wagon speed trap.  No luck. :-(

Hwy 49 is usually a busy highway, but you would think it would be less traveled on A Saturday.  Like hell!  We planned for our first stop to be in Magee for a morning bite, a McD's breakfast sammich!  The traffic at the first red light in this small town was over 40 car lengths, WTH???  I quickly exited onto the frontage road, and passed all of those vehicles lined up at the light.  Even with.all the stop signs, I was way ahead of that line.  McD's here we come!

We get into the order line, finally, the order screen.  "Sorry sir, we stopped breakfast items five minutes ago, 10:30.  Ok, chicken wrap it will be.  Pay window fine.  Pickup window "sorry sir, we're still prepping, please pull over into pickup spot #2.  Really???

Meanwhile, back to traffic!  Once we are past Hattiesburg on hwy 98, we prefer to take hwy 63 down to Moss Point to get on I-10.  The traffic.flow approaching Mobile gets heavy, and on this day we opted to go the back Bay Bridge route.  Glad we did.

Once we were over the bridge and thru the dells, the I-10 bridges were just a couple of miles ahead.  As we approached, all you could we was bumper to bumper cars in both directions, creep, creeping along.  We stayed on hwy 98 till we reached Daphne,  then we re-entered the intersate.  This sucker was packed all the way to the Loxley exit to Gulf Shores.

Being the foodie that I am, it was hard to pass  up the Steak & Shake on I-65.  The service has been bad the last few stops.  We opted for the Pensacola location near the Cordova Mall, less than five miles off the interstate.   Place was packed, and the service was excellent.  I found out from the manager that they also owned the Mobile locations.  Told him my experiences, "Frisco Melt with no special sauce" and other stuff.  He didn't appear to be surprised  by my comments.   Said, yeah, we just put a new staff of managers.  AWESOME!

The rest of the trip was uneventfull, til.we reached the Destin Bay Bridge, at 4:30 in the afternoon!  Thankfully we had our SUNPASS decal on the windshield!  I'll  bet we passed over 100 cars waiting to pay the $3 toll!

Don't  think that Panama City Beach traffic was any better.  "Go home" traffic was at a crawl.   Finally made it to our destination, whew!    Looks like the last week of August or later will be in our future for next year and beyond!

More to come!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Go Dogs Go!

If you've read a number of my blog posts the last couple of years, you've read a post or two about the three dogs in our lives, Oscar & Otis our dachshunds, and Henry the Boston terrier.  These boys are as close to grand young'uns that we will have for quite a spell, till the boys finally get past sewing their oats, you might say.

These boys definitely have the run of the house and the yard.  Each morning, there is no need for an alarm clock.  Henry is the first to be up and atom, pouncing on me to get moving.  After all, there are the four corners of the yard that need to be checked out for bugs, lizards, birds and squirrels.  Occasionally we'll have a rabbit or two and a few snakes!

These dogs love raiding the pear tree for fallen fruit.  This year, not many have hit the ground, but I keep noticing the dogs chewing on fresh fruit.  Finally saw Henry, the tallest, reaching for the lowest limb, pulling off the fruit for himself, and also Oscar & Otis!  They may be different breeds, but they are definitely family!

On Saturday mornings we have the waffle ritual.  Started this a long time ago with the boys, but just because they have grown past it doesn't mean the pups have.  They are at my side, patiently waiting their feast, no barking, and no fighting, eyes watching my every move.  One waffle gets divided onto three paper plates, and all three are placed on the floor.  In no time at all, the waffles, plus a wee bit of syrup are gone.  Plates licked clean.

Same goes for cheese straw making time.  I'm guessing its all about the smell, because I don't see hide nor hair of any of the three when I'm baking human cookies.  They wait, patiently til I'm done, knowing the last bit of the cheese dough is on its way to them.  No fighting, each waiting their turn for a small piece of dough.

They of course know when I'm making doggie treats too.  They hang around til they are all in the oven, and they know that the left over doggie treat dough is theirs.  Otis has figured out the oven timer.  He is usually in my lap, til the timer goes off, then he jumps down, and runs to the oven, hoping to be the one to get the first treat,  Oscar, the oldest knows that you have to wait til they cool off before they will be offered up.

These dogs are so bright, that they have figured out when they hear the garage door go up, that humans are coming through the back door.  They are so excited to see who it will be.  They act like you have been gone for a year, even when it may have only been an hour or two.

When visitors come over, they know which door to run to, based on the door bell tone!  When its a delivery or pickup, they run to the front door, while I go through the back, and meet the company out front.  Not sure what I'm gonna do when they figure that one out!

Yep.  These are our babies, and our lives would be empty without them.  Guessing the grand babies, when they come, will be adjusting to them!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In a Blink of an Eye

Wow, in 30+ years of marriage, a lot has happened.   Met the love of my life, married her, and bam! Here it is 2015!

We lived in rental housing for a couple of years, then with the advent of "bond money" at the low rate of 10.78% and the help from some fantastic inlaws, we bought and moved into our first house!

Early years are always a struggle.  We paid the inlaws back, we paid off student loans, and paid off the car loans.  Wow!  Now we are rich, with all this extra money!  What to do, what to do???

Remember that old song "first comes love, then comes marriage, then momma pushing a baby carriage!  Yep, along comes our first born Matthew.  A few years later we were blessed with Morgan.

And that supply of new found monthly wealth?  Well now, gotta have a new car every so often.  Don't  forget, it's time to put more away for retirement!   Before you know it, those boys will be going off to college, so begin to save,  save, save!

Oh no!  Just out grew the house.  Time to upsize!  Move to a new developing subdivision.  Guess what, no cable TV and no money for one of those big ole satellite dishes!  At least we had a vhs vcr and a dozen Barney tapes for Morgan!  Barney, over and over again!

Now that you are parents, we gotta give our boys what we didn't have.  Annual trips to the amusement parks here we come!  The look on Matthew's face after his first loop de loop roller coaster.

Next would be our biggest investment of our lives following the bouncing balls!  Tball and buddyball for both, and guess who ends up coaching!  Then there's that sport you never played, soccer!    Seems nobody understands this sport, phone rings, "Bill if you don't  coach it, twelve kids will no have the opportunity to play", said by my good friend John Everett!  What the hell did I just sign up for???

Oldest enters middle school.  "Dad, I'm  joining the school band, and I'm gonna play the saxophone."
Does the school provide the horn?  You guessed it!  No problem, the easy payment plan!

Time to get involved again!  Band boosters here we come!  They need a treasurer, no problem, I'm  your guy.   Need money?  No problem!  Fund raisers here we come!  Concession stand operations become a full time part time job.  Good friend, a food broker, donates 500 pounds of precooked chicken breasts  that a customer said was the wrong flavor!  Where do you store 500 lbs?  Everywhere! Another connection donated 200 lbs of chicken wings!  Band boosters from other schools could not figure out how we could sell this for $3!  Glad I was sworn to secrecy!  Amazing the money you can raise with a winning football team!

Youngest was a repeat of the first.  I'm now an old pro at tball and buddy ball.  And I'm also an old pro at the game of soccer!   Coach him for four years.  Then "Dad, I wanta play select soccer!"  Yea! No longer a coach, just a supportive dad!  Then it hits you!  Another name for select soccer is "pay ball".  Pay to play, then pay for gas, hotel rooms, and restaurants $$$$!

Third year in, son doesn't make his club team when four teams eventually are culled down to 2.  Surprise of a lifetime!  My best friend David's son and Morgan are picked up by CJSO, the Jackson Metro all black soccer team!  These two were the cream filling in the oreo!  The team was long on talent, but short on players.   Magic happens!  This team wins the State two years in a row!   Money spent, best investment ever!

Oldest off to College.  Glad we began saving early!  Son graduates from USM debt free!  Diploma confirms he made it!

Youngest decides he wants to attend MSMS his junior and senior years of high school.  The school is in Columbus, MS.  Empty nest two years early.  He decides to play h.s. soccer at MSMS.  All games over 1.5 hours away.  We're old pros at this, didn't miss a game!   Met some wonderful kids and parents from all over the State.  Even did a bit of fundraising here too!  Money went to parent support group for extras for these kids that were missing on a normal school life.

Youngest now a senior at MSU.  This fall will be our victory lap of having his Rebel momma attend a game or two, and even ringing her own cowbell.  He too, will graduate debt free.  The gift from his momma and me!

In the blink of an eye, all the above has come and gone.  The hair is all grey, and the waistline has gotten bigger.  We can no longer handle a week long stay in our second home in Orlando at WDW and Universal.  The muscles and joints just don't bounce back like they used to.  We have found our new heaven in the sands of the Florida Panhandle.  The boys hearts have been stolen away by two gals.

Maybe by the next blink, there will have been wedding bells and pink and blue baby guessing parties.  Hoping one day some youngins are calling  me Pop!

But hey!  We ain't there yet!  One of the girly friends has me planning a group trip back to Orlando this fall for the Disney Not so Scarey Halloween event.  They will be double dipping with Universal's Fright Night, while the.spousal unit and I enjoy a lazy river float!

It's hard to believe that 30 years have past.  Redo and change a thing or two?  No way!  All this time was spent with the three loves of my life.  Guess I just need to figure out how to blink slower....

For those of you that haven't blinked yet, figure it out early.  Save fore retirement.   Save for kids college education.  Spend your time with those that you love.  The good times and those memories are your reward!

And just try not to blink!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Road Side Sightings

Made a little roadie trip yesterday toward New Albany, Mississippi.  You can get there several ways, but mostly its up I55 and over.  We decided to take Hwy 7 from the Coffeeville exit to Oxford, then over some more.

Some of these roads have a bit of four lane in them, sorta kinda like a by-pass of sorts, but for the most part, its just two laners.  Driving 55 mph gives you a bit of time to take in the sights.  Today was no exception.

As you make your way down these roads in this part of the country you have to wonder what these folks that live around here do for a living?  Not much farm land, and not a whole lotta pine trees.  As you make your way through this countryside, you get to noticing where they shop.  The areas are too rural for a Wally World, but dang, if Dollar Gentral hasn't found a niche.  They must be the current version of the General Store from the fifties and sixties!  Like the general stores of years past, what you see is what they have.  No storage room in the back, all on display for you to pick from!

Along with the Dollar Gentrals, there are countless convenience stores that dot these highways and byways.  Guessing everybody eats fried foods because almost everyone of these include a counter for Chester's Fried Chicken and JoJo taters.  No time limit on this stuff, cooked in the morning, and in the serving case till its all gone!  Other convenience store chains cater to the pizza eating crowd with an offering from Hunt Brothers .  Funny how you never see any advertising for any of these offerings!

If you ever stop at one of these and go in for a quick snack, they give you that look, "you ain't from around here, are you?"  Kinda like that scene in Burt Reynold's movie "Deliverance" with the two bubba's in the stream, you pay for your stuff and get outta there quick!  And what's up with the Koolaid pickles?????

Lately, I'm seeing a buildup of the latest business model, a convenience store, selling everything under the sun, but also including a Baskin Robbins counter, chicken & pizza, and even a barbershop or Donut shop attached.  It's the Indian Merchant's version of the mini mall!

The other most common sighting are the roadside farm vendors.  How in the world does a fella make a living by selling a pickup truck load of sweet potaters or watermelons?  At least the taters can stand the heat!  Then, there is the roadside street vendor with his huge boiling pot and propane tank selling boiled peanuts.  Does anybody ever ask "hey buddy, when's the last time you changed out the water and salt in that big ole pot of yours???"

When you reach retirement, you can slow it down a bit, and take the side roads. Sometimes these byways are surprising, like 30AAA!  Afterall, what's the hurry?  We're planning a trip to the mountains once our beach season is over.  Bet there will be a story or two to tell!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

College Life, Parent Addition

Well, its almost the first of August, and a whole new group of parents are getting ready to send their kids off to one of those institutions of higher learning.  For any parent over forty, the College experience ain't what you remember.  I discovered that roads got moved and dorms disappear!

Hopefully you as parents did the proper thing and saved up the money for your kid's tuition, books, room and board.  If not, then you have already filled out all the financial aid paperwork.  You still have to do this for the Mississippi MTAG tuition credit.  If your kid was smart enough to score high enough on their ACT, then you have been rewarded with other offsets to the financial burden.  There is always the student loan route, which will burden the kid for years to come until repaid.  Not here to debate the good,  bad, or ugly about who pays, but it is what it is.....

As you have probably discovered by now, your kid is now considered an adult by the Federal Government, the State, and the Institutions of Higher Learning..  All financial and student records are considered private.  You as a parent do not have access to any of this type of information unless your kid grants you that permission.  It is, however, your duty as a parent, to stay in touch with your kids affairs.  Confirm the they are enrolled.  Confirm that the tuition has been paid and all late fees and fines have been handled. Confirm that they have grades.  And by all means, make sure you know whether your kid is still in school.  Some parents are overheard saying "if I only knew".....

Incoming Freshmen already know that they generally are required to live on campus their first year.  The dorms are coed, but students are usually on separate wings or floors.  Roommate assignments were made long ago.  If your kid doesn't know their roommate, they may be in for a culture shock.  Students from all over the world come to our universities for learning.  A lot of learning goes on in the dorm that first year.  After the first year, students are free to find housing as best they can, but dorm housing space is mostly reserved for another class of incoming freshmen.

Housing after the freshman year is typically found off campus.  Apartments and rental houses are the most common.  Even more life lessons are learned in living quarters, sometimes with hometown friends, classmates, or even total strangers.  And yes, even the boy/girl friend!  Another option is to acquire a small house or condo.  After you get past the down payment, the monthly expenses are considerably less than renting.  Plus, renting out the spare bedroom or rooms can even cover the monthly note and expenses.  Depending on how well the property is cared for, you usually can break even on a sale, or what loss is incurred will be much cheaper than all of the rent paid over your student's time in school.  Plus, it gives you a place to stay on "game day".

Laptops, believe it or not, are almost a disposable item.  My son took a brand new laptop with him to MSMS for his last two years of high school.  Now in his final year, he is on his third machine, and it is now needing a bit of TLC.  The worst abuses of a laptop are viruses, computer gaming, and just physical abuse.  Gaming puts a tremendous strain on the processor and graphics card.  We bought the first two, third one etc... are on him!

Now is as good a time for your kid to learn household budgeting.  Hopefully you have access to the bank account so that you can monitor odd spending habits.  The school meal plans are an excellent way to budget one's funds.  Worse case, your kid might not like it, or its gotten old, but they will always have something to eat.

Buying text books is pretty much a thing of the past.  Due to the cost, many students are opting to rent their books or purchase a license for an on-line version of the text book.    Some books are still purchased for those classes that will require the same text book for multiple semesters, or it might be a reference book later in life.

Watch out for pets.  Besides the girly friend moving in, my son has also taken possession of one cat, and two dogs, along with a duck and chicken here and there.  We started with a "no pet policy", but when you are not there, things do tend to be taken advantage of.  Grades have been excellent so we decided to not fix what was working.

Summer jobs are hit or miss.  Most if not all the retailers take applications online and there are usually at least 100 or more ahead of yours.  I sent my son to a employment agency that just happened to be looking for an engineering intern for a job paying $10 per hour.  Lot more life lessons learned that summer.  Another option is for your student to consider the Co-op plan.  Depending on their particular field of study, companies hire students to work three semesters during their junior-senior years.  This adds an additional year to their schooling, but it provides invaluable experience for them to put on their resumes and build up a significant bank account to help with expenses.

Be sure to "like" or join all the social media pages of your kid's university.  You will be able to keep up with school events and calendars and often times you will be telling your kid some things that they haven't heard or didn't know.

Drugs and alcohol are and have been a part of college life for a long time.  There are those students that cannot handle either and end up in the hospital, jail, or being sent home for poor classroom performance.  I personally know one kid with multiple DUI's.  You would thing one would be more than enough!

Don't forget to plan a visit during a home football game or two.  We have done this every year, and have made new friends, met up with some old friends, and have been entertained by the young bucks that drop by for a bite to eat.  You're paying for it, might as well enjoy it!

Good luck to all you newbie college parents, as we are in with our son on his last "victory lap"!  We have tailgating supplies that will be with us for a while.  We know all the back roads in and around two campuses.  Most of the vehicles are well over 100,000 miles.  Cowbells have got a few dings, and lots or Rebel pom poms have faded.  Being from a split household, this fall is gonna be a long one.  Glad I make space in the cooler for a tall cold one or two, or three. #HailState and #HobbyLobby everybody!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Best Layed Plans

Beautiful day at the beach.   Not a cloud in sight, with each step, your foot sinks into the sugary white sands, and you look to the left, then to right, and only a handful of other souls in sight.  Gonna be an awesome day.

You reach you destination,  a spot in the sand, in close proximity to the waters edge.  The surf barely has a ripple,  and the water is that picturesque emerald green.  Then it hits you.  The air is not moving, OMG it's hot!

You quickly insert the anchors for the umbrellas into the hot sand.  Umbrellas up, chairs set, cup stake anchored and ready for the first margarita of the day.  The cup of choice is the 30 oz Yeti Rambler.  Ok, I can now handle this heat.  The frozen margarita on the beach is a stroke of genius!   Cool and refreshing, and it doesn't melt in this Yeti cup of mine!

Later in the day, the wind has finally showed up.  The small ripple in the surf has now grown into full fledged wave action.  Ah, life at the beach is good!

My phone rang.  It was one of my contacts from New York needing me to a quick job in Clinton, Ms today.  I said, sorry, I'm at the beach, in a chair under and umbrella and I'm enjoying a frozen margarita right now.  The reply was a bit of silence, then the words "i am so jealous of you right now!"  Yes, life at the beach is good, and today  it is all mine!

Plans had been made to leave around 5 and venture east to Destin and meet up with a dear friend after her work day was done.  Navarre Beach is only a hop, skip and jump from Destin and we would be there lickity split.

The hour finally arrived.  We packed up our gear, and began our trek back over the sand dune for the short walk back to the beach house.   We reach the top of the dune, and good lord, the cars!  Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see!

We are on Santa Rosa Island, accessible only by two bridges, one at Pensacola Beach, and the other, here at Navarre Beach.  Today was the Blue Angel air show, that started at 2:00, and it is now after 5!

After staring at the traffic for a minute or two,  it became obviously to me really quickly  that if we got in this line of traffic now, we might make it to Destin by midnight.  I quickly sent a message to our friend that we would have to take a rain check on our plans to meet.

Back to the water's edge we went, for another hour of heaven.  Eventually the supply of frozen margaritas was gone.  An hour has past since we had first worked our way over the top of the dune.  Here we are again,  same spot, and the line of cars seems to be even longer!

We make our way through the line of cars.  One driver politely asked if we had an extra bottle of water, as she had been in this traffic stall for over three hours!

We made it back to the beach house and got a shower and cleaned up.  We stepped outside onto the second floor deck.  It's now past 7, and the traffic is still there!  We spot some people walking along the side of the road, with gas cans in their hands.  In our view, we see little boys exit the cars  and they run over the top of the dunes.  They return in a matter of minutes, it's obvious that they have just answered the call of nature!

The line of cars finally began to disappear a little after 9.  A neighbor said this line of cars lasted til after 10 last year.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever invision a traffic jam of this magnitude.   Couldn't see it, but I'll  bet every gas station along hwy 98 toward Destin was drained dry!

Lessons learned, we will be enjoying another day at the beach today before heading back home.  Gotta let all that traffic heading west from Destin, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores clear out first.

Don't worry my sugary white sands, we will be back in two weeks for another visit!